Pack your bags

If you’re pregnant or a new mum, you’ve probably received a bag (or two) of pre-loved baby gear from a friend or relative. It may have been accompanied by the words, “I thought you might be able to use some of this stuff!” or “I was just cleaning out and thought I’d pass these on to you!” It’s a thoughtful gesture, and one new mums are usually a bit surprised by, but ultimately appreciate. Because those bags of hand-me-downs will save you from spending more money on clothes your baby will just outgrow in five minutes.

But sometimes, hand-me-downs become too much to handle.

When I had my son, I was inundated with hand-me-downs. Everyone I knew had a boy whose clothes they were just dying to get rid of, and I was the *ahem* lucky recipient of their goodwill. Eight different people gave me their children’s hand-me-downs, and my lounge looked like an op shop sorting room. (I used to work in an op shop, so I say this with authority.) And while I was grateful for the gesture, I was also a bit overwhelmed. And I secretly felt guilty. What if I wanted to buy my baby some clothing myself? What if I wanted him to have a couple of new outfits? Would my friends think I was greedy or ungrateful?

And then there were the hand-me-downs themselves. The vast majority were in wonderful condition – but there were quite a few things which were worn out, stained, or just plain not my style. What would I do with those things? Should I return them to the giver? Should I pass them on to someone else (and risk them thinking the same things I did)?

And some of the hand-me-downs came with rules. Rules like, “You can borrow this for your baby” or “Just give it back when you’re done with it”. I’m sorry, but as a new mum, I can barely remember to brush my teeth, let alone keep track of whose hand-me-downs belonged to whom originally and then need to go back at some point in the future.

So here are my guidelines for hand-me-downs:

  1. Ask the recipient if they want or need any hand-me-downs – don’t just turn up on their doorstep with a rubbish sack filled with baby gear.
  2. Give the recipient the opportunity to go through that rubbish sack filled with baby gear, pick out what they want and need, and return the rest to you if they want to.
  3. If she says no, thank you, respect her refusal and don’t push the issue.
  4. Don’t put conditions on the hand-me-downs, like that the recipient needs to pass them on to someone else when they’re done with them. They might not know anyone else with a new baby who can use the clothes.
  5. Never, ever tell a new mum she can borrow your hand-me-downs and needs to return them when she’s done. Just don’t do it. If you want to keep the clothes, then keep them – don’t “lend” them in the first place.
  6. Go through the hand-me-downs before passing them on and weed out the stuff that’s ripped or stained. Clothes that have been in storage for a few years can show up stains, even if they were washed before you put them away, and sometimes the stains won’t come out.
  7. Wash hand-me-down clothing before giving it to the new mum – don’t give her a bag of stuff and say “It just needs a wash.” Dude, do you REMEMBER how much washing there is when you have a new baby? Don’t give her more!

Some things should not be handed down. Baby bottles, teething toys, and expired child restraints need to be binned for health and safety reasons. Some mums are iffy about hand-me-down cloth nappies and burp cloths.

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BUMP & baby is New Zealand’s only magazine for pregnancy and early babyhood. Our team of mums and mums-to-be understand what it’s like to be pregnant in this connected age, and that’s why BUMP & Baby online is geared toward what pregnant women and new mums really want to know.

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